Gardening: Rainy days bring more mosquitos


Mosquitoes! With the dry start to the rainy season this year, the mosquito outbreaks have not been as bad as in years past. However, our recent visit from Debby has created a lot of standing water in our neighborhoods creating the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

When we have a lot of rain, the water levels in some natural areas can rise enough to allow fish into the areas where they breed. These fish feed on the mosquito larva thus lowering the population when outbreaks do occur. While this helps to reduce the number of salt marsh mosquitoes, it is up to us to help reduce the population of freshwater mosquitoes.

If there are any places around your home or business where water can collect, you may be raising mosquitoes.

You should get rid of old tires, tin cans, bottles, jars, buckets and other containers, or you should keep them empty of water. Keep rain barrels covered and screened. Repair leaky pipes, outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently to avoid damp soil. Also change and scrub vases, bird baths or watering pans for pets and livestock at least twice a week.

Mosquitoes are an annoying and serious problem in Florida. If you have work to do outdoors or want to have a picnic or just enjoy your backyard in the evening they can make work very unenjoyable and spoil your good time.

They are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue to man, encephalitis to man and horses and heart worm to dogs and cats. And, now the west nile virus.

So not only are they annoying but these diseases are serious and should not be taken lightly.

We are all too familiar with a mosquito's appearance but just in case you don't know what they look like the following is a description.

They have long slender bodies, narrow wings with a fringe of scales on the edges of the wings and along the veins, and long, thin legs. The females have firm mouthparts well adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. The males cannot suck blood but both sexes feed on nectar of various plants. Their life cycle consists of four stages: Egg, larva, pupa and adult.

The eggs may be laid singly or in rafts, deposited in water, on the sides of containers where water will cover, or on damp soil where they can hatch when flooded by rainwater or high tides.

This is what happens between Key Marco and Goodland with heavy rains, due to the enormous area of standing water in the mangrove die off area whenever it rains.

When it rains, this water has no where to go and thus becomes a giant puddle to not only produce mosquitoes but to further kill more mangroves. No fish can get into the area to feed on larvae.

All of the mosquito species require water for breeding. Mosquito larvae are not adapted to life in moving waters. They breed instead in quiet water.

Since half the land area of Florida is subject to flooding, mosquitoes breed in large numbers throughout the state. Contrary to belief, mosquitoes do not breed in the heavy undergrowth of weeds or shrubs. Although these places offer excellent refuge for adults, they do not provide a suitable habitat for mosquito larvae.

The eggs elongated, about 1/40-inch long, are laid in batches of 50 to 200 and one female may lay several batches.

In warm water, the eggs of most species hatch in two or three days. Some eggs require a drying period, remaining dormant for months. They both hatch soon after coming in contact with water which is why we always have an outbreak soon after a good rainstorm.

Some species feed on cattle, horses or other domestic animals while others prefer man. A few species feed only on cold blooded animals like lizards and snakes and some live entirely on nectar or plant juices. Some are active at night and others only during the day time.

Mosquito control is the responsibility of both the individual and our local MosKeep rain barrels covered and screened. Repair leaky pipes, outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently to avoid damp soil. Alquito Control District.Individuals should follow the above listed advice to eliminate standing water from around their homes and businesses. Keep your screens in good, tight fitting repair. And use repellents like DEET, oil of citronella or Avon's Skin-so-Soft.

The Mosquito Control District used to spray us like crops using low flying planes and Malathion mixed with diesel fuel to kill adult mosquitoes.

Then one day a woman in Naples was feeding her baby on the porch and was horrified to find herself, her baby and the baby's food being sprayed with no warning. She protested loudly for change and today the Mosquito Control District does more larvaciding and spraying while we all sleep.

I kind of miss the excitement of the low flying planes but not the chemicals they sprayed us with.

Some years the mosquitoes are worse than others. While we live on the edge of mangrove forests, we can do all we can in our own yards and surrounding areas to eliminate breeding grounds to help keep the population down.

Eileen Ward and her husband Peter have owned and operated Greensward of Marco, Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company since 1981. Watch Eileen's gardening videos on

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